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GRE...not important?


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While I've been told the GRE isn't important for admission into graduate programs, I'm still nervous. My math score will be, alas, abysmal. And, although I have practiced a bit (emphasis: a bit), my verbal score remains a stubborn 710-730. I'm fairly sure I will score over 650 for the GRE lit. test, however, since my undergrad education concentrated on obscure Haitian poets rather than, oh, say, Milton, I doubt that I will score anything spectacular.

I am hoping to apply to top programs. I have confidence in my SOP, writing sample, recommendations, etc...I have some publications under my belt & a 4.0 from an ivy league school. Should I apply with mediocre GRE scores? Can I get decent funding with a verbal score in the low 700s?

Also, is anyone worried about the Economy and how it will affect admission for fall 2010? I'm considering applying next year, in hope that Things Will Get Better, but I would prefer to be back in school as soon as possible. Do you suppose that universities will be admitting fewer students (but still giving full funding), or rather just reducing everyone's funding?

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You'll be just fine, especially with your grades and pub record.

I applied last year. I got an 800 V, a 750 M, and a 770 Lit Subject. When my results came out, I discovered that those scores and $2 would get me a cup of coffee. Put in some time studying but don't worry, and whatever you do, don't emphasize the tests at the expense of the writing, the letters, etc.

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Honestly, for someone like you (top-tier undergrad, high GPA, presumably strong recommendations), the GRE should not matter very much at all. My advisors explained that the test is really only considered when the remainder of the application does not sufficiently indicate a person's level of academic development. The idea is to not do poorly enough to draw attention. "Poorly," I imagine, would be something under 650 on the Verbal and under 620 or so on the Lit test (some top-tier schools, like Columbia, don't even want to see the Lit. test score, so you can imagine that other schools weigh it quite lightly). It's probable that you can bomb the GRE Math and have no issues-- but then again, the idea is to not have any blemishes at all on your application, so at least shoot for not embarrassing yourself. My GRE scores were by no means stellar (lower than any you've reported-- save for Math, which I inexplicably aced), but I had what I imagine were very strong recs and a solid writing sample. I also didn't publish anything as an undergrad (Stanford). But I(naively, admittedly) only applied to top-10 schools and was fairly successful. Focus on the aspects of your application that are actually representative of you and your strengths, and view the GRE as a formality.

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